- U.S. And Iraq To Resume Strategic Dialogue; Committee Revises 2021 Budget; KRG In Tense Negotiations For Its Share; Foreign Minister Discusses Energy, Banking And Regional Tensions In Tehran – On January 28, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Iraq’s Foreign Minister discussed resuming their bilateral strategic dialogue talks. On January 28, Cardinal Louis Sako said that Pope Francis will meet with Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf when he visits Iraq in March. On January 29, hundreds of protesters in Nasiriyah demanded the release of civil activist Sajjad al-Iraqi, who was kidnapped in September. On January 29, Parliament’s Finance Committee revised the assumed price of oil in the draft 2021 budget from $42/barrel to $45/barrel, and decreased total expenses from IQD164 trillion to under IQD130 trillion, potentially reducing the deficit to IQD30 trillion. On January 31, a KRG delegation resumed negotiations in Baghdad for the KRG share of the 2021 budget. KRG representatives said they were ready to deliver 250,000 bpd of oil to Baghdad, but complained that some Shia parties insist on full federal control over oil. On February 3, a State of Law Coalition representative accused KRG negotiators of stalling, calling on Parliament to approve the budget regardless of Kurdish participation. On February 3, Iraq’s Foreign Minister led a delegation to Tehran for meetings with Iran’s leaders that focused on energy, commerce, railway projects, and banking. The delegation also discussed the state of U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue and Washington’s decreasing military presence. more…
- Iraqi Forces Kill Senior ISIS Leaders; Militias Resume Bombing Attacks On Businesses; Peshmerga Denies Advancing Into Disputed Territories – On January 28, PM Kadhimi said Iraqi security forces (ISF) backed by Coalition airstrikes killed the top ISIS leader in Iraq, Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan al-Issawi and nine other senior militants in operations in Kirkuk. Between January 29 – February 4, ISF and Coalition airstrikes killed at least 11 other ISIS militants, including the commanders for southern Iraq, the western desert and northern Baghdad. Between January 29 – February 3, the explosions of 15 IEDs and remnants of war killed at least three Iraqis and wounded eight others. Seven of the IEDs targeted businesses in the Baghdad area, while three targeted contractors transporting supplies for the International Coalition. Between January 29 – February 2, ten other attacks killed at least nine Iraqis and wounded seven others. On January 31, reports said that Peshmerga forces advanced seven kilometers into the the Sargaran subdistrict in Kirkuk province. The Peshmerga Ministry denied the reports, stating that Peshmerga units were merely on high alert due to increased ISIS movements in the area. more…
- Iraq Seeks Expedited Vaccine Shipments; Authorities Move To Evict IDPs From Jedaa Camp; COVID-19 Cases On The Rise Again – On January 31, PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use Iraq’s embassies to urge pharmaceutical companies and countries manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines to expedite vaccine shipments to Iraq. On February 1, Iraqi security forces began closing the Jadaa 5 camp for internally displaced peoples (IDPs). Iraqi authorities reportedly told residents to leave voluntarily or face forcible eviction. On February 4, Iraq’s Health Ministry reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 624,222. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 13,091 while the number of patients currently in hospitals decreased to 14,172. To date, 596,959 patients have recovered from the virus, and Iraq has tested 5,803,603 samples for COVID-19. The daily average for new cases increased from 943/day during the 7-day period ending January 28 to 1,150/day over the last 7-day period. more…
- Oil Revenue Jumps In January; Iraq Says It’s Respecting OPEC Quota; Iraq Asks GCC To Expedite Electricity Connection – On February 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said oil exports in January averaged 2.868 million bpd, and generated $4.739 billion in revenue, more than $500 million higher than December’s $4.213 billion. Iraq’s oil marketer (SOMO) said that Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, produced a total of 3.807 million bpd in January, well under Iraq’s 3.857 million bpd quota for January-March. On February 1, President Salih and PM Kadhimi met with the visiting Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Nayef Falah al-Hajraf. Kadhimi called for expanding commercial ties, and urged the visiting GCC official to expedite the grid connection project signed between Iraq and the GCC, which has been facing delays due to the pandemic. On February 3, Japan’s ambassador to Iraq announced that Tokyo will give $50 million to fund “11 major projects” through the UN and other international organizations. more…
For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.
On January 28, Cardinal Louis Sako announced that Pope Francis will meet with Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf when he visits Iraq in early March. Sako said that Sistani and Francis will discuss a mutual framework to condemn anyone who violates the sanctity of life. The pope also plans to lead “an interfaith meeting in Ur,” a site in Dhi-Qar province where Abraham was born. This visit, first announced in December, will be the Pope’s first to the country. “The Pope feels the need to go and give encouragement to these Christians,” a vatican official said, referring to Iraq’s dwindling Christian community, which has suffered discrimination, persecution and violence, most recently at the hands of ISIS terrorists.
On January 28, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein to discuss resuming the bilateral strategic dialogue between talks. Iraq and the U.S. launched the strategic dialogue talks in June 2019 and held a second round of talks in August of the same year. The Iraqi minister expressed interest in working with Blinken and top diplomats in states neighboring Iraq “to reduce tensions” that are destabilizing Iraq’s internal affairs. According to the Foreign Ministry statement, Blinken emphasized the desire to strengthen the economic relationship and help Iraq deal with its economic crisis.
On January 29, hundreds of protesters in Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah demanded the release of civil activist Sajjad al-Iraqi who was kidnapped in an attack by unidentified gunmen in September 2019. The demonstrators also demanded accountability and justice for the killing of demonstrators calling for political and economic reforms since 2019.
On January 29, the Parliamentary Finance Committee announced that it has revised the assumed price of oil in the draft 2021 budget from $42/barrel to $45/barrel. Committee member Ahmad al-Saffar stated that the committee decreased total expenses in the budget from IQD164 trillion to under IQD130 trillion, resulting in a reduction in the deficit by 57%, down to under IQD30 trillion. Saffar added that talks have been ongoing for two weeks, and will continue to address other outstanding issues concerning further spending reductions, transfers between line items, new job slots, and the Kurdistan regional government’s (KRG) share of the budget.
On January 31, UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert visited Theran for two days of meetings with Iranain officials concerning conditions in Iraq. According to Rudaw, Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, discussed Iran-Iraq relations and Iraq’s upcoming election with the visiting UN official, and offered his country’s support to assist with their success. Hennis-Plasscaert reportedly stressed the need to preserve Iraq’s unity and sovereignty, and to organize elections that are free and fair. The visit drew criticism from Iraqi journalists and analysts who viewed it as legitimizing Iran’s interference in Iraqi affairs. The UNAMI statement defended the visit as an action done “in furtherance of UNAMI’s mandate under Security Council Resolution 2522 (2020), which includes the facilitation of regional dialogue and cooperation.”
On January 31, a KRG delegation arrived in Baghdad to resume negotiations with the federal Parliament and political parties for the KRG share in the 2021 budget. According to al-Mada, Kurdish representatives were ready to accept Article 11 of the draft budget, which requires the KRG to deliver 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil to the federal government, and use surplus oil production to cover extraction and export costs. Shia parties, however, are divided, according to Kurdish lawmaker Jamal Kojar. Kojar said that some Shia parties are in favor of Article 11, while others insist that the federal government should have full control over oil. Last week, suggested amendments backed by Shia blocks demanded that the KRG delivers a minimum of 460,000 bpd (as well as any surplus) to the Oil Marketing Company (SOMO). Kurdish representative Salim Hamza said Iraqi officials involved in the negotiations were not serious about finding solutions and were trying to “create a fait accompli.” Hamza stressed that Kurdish parties would boycott the budget vote if the bill did not give the Kurds their rights. Kurdish officials said on February 3, that the KRG delegation was departing Baghdad after failing to reach an agreement on the budget but plans to return later to resume negotiations. On February 3, a State of Law Coalition representative accused KRG negotiators of stalling, and argued that Parliament should approve the budget at the next session “through political majority” regardless of Kurdish participation in the vote.
On February 2, sources close to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said the party decided to appoint Omid Khoshnao as the new Governor of Erbil. Khoshnao is currently the leader of the KDP’s bloc in the Kurdistan regional Parliament and will have to resign this role upon assuming the governorship of Erbil. If confirmed, Khoshnao will succeed the previous governor, Firsat Sofi, who died due to complications from COVID-19 in November.
On February 3, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein led a delegation to Tehran for meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, National Security Advisor Ali Shamkhani, Islamic Consultative Assembly Mohammad Baqir Qualibaf, and Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif. Discussion with Rouhani focused on economic relations, including energy sales and removing obstacles to related transactions. With Zarif, the Foreign Minister discussed a railway link project between the two countries and its potential for expanding commerce. The delegation also discussed the state of U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue and Washington’s decreasing military presence. In meetings with Shamkhani and Qualibaf, the delegation discussed combating terrorism and regional challenges. Trade Bank of Iraq chief Salim Chalabi and Prime Minister Kadhimi’s office chief, Raed Johi accompanied Fuad Hussein on the trip.
On January 28, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said Iraqi security forces killed the top ISIS leader in Iraq, Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan al-Issawi (aka Abu Yasser al-Issawi) in Kirkuk. The operation, which Iraqi commanders said was supported by International Coalition airstrikes, eliminated the highest ranking member of ISIS in Iraq and nine other senior ISIS militants. Kadhimi applauded the efforts of security forces and intelligence units for conducting what he said was a sustained campaign since September 2019 in which Iraqi forces killed 17 ISIS leaders.
On January 29, an IED exploded near a liquor store in the Adhamiya Corniche in Baghdad, causing only material damage. On February 1, a second IED targeted a liquor store in Basmayah, southeast of Baghdad, without causing casualties. The same day a third IED exploded outside of a massage parlor in the Karrada area of central Baghdad. According to NRT Arabia, a group called Ahl al-Marouf claimed responsibility for the attack. On February 2, a fourth IED detonated near a liquor store in the Yarmouk area of Baghdad. A fifth IED struck another liquor store on al-Nidhal street in Baghdad, damaging the store without injury. The same day, security forces dismantled another IED in Baghdad’s Jordan Square without incident. On February 3, a sixth IED exploded outside of another liquor store in the Diyala Bridge area in southeastern Baghdad, with no casualties. A seventh IED targeted a liquor store in Jurf al-Naddaf in southern Baghdad, causing only material damage. Since January 11, ISHM recorded 12 other attacks on liquor stores in Baghdad, with at least two IEDs claimed by Ahl al-Marouf.
On January 29, a remnant of war exploded in the Jalawla subdistrict of Diyala province, killing a child and wounding four others. Officials stated that the accident occurred when the group touched an unexploded mortar round in the al-Wehda neighborhood.
On January 29, unidentified assailants attacked the home of a senior army commander with a grenade in al-Muqdadiyah district in Diyala province. A security source stated that the attack on the officer, a major general who commands units in Anbar province, caused no injuries.
On January 29, Iraqi Border Guard officers killed three ISIS militants and destroyed their vehicle in a firefight north of Majna police station, southwest of Rutba in Anbar province. The skirmish also injured one police officer. On January 30, soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 1st Division’s Intelligence Regiment killed two more ISIS members in an operation in the desert west of Rutba. A security source said that one of the dead ISIS militants was the ISIS military chief for west Rutba, Muthanna Shatran al-Marawi, and that the operation also destroyed an ISIS hideout in the Faydat al-Ghuzlan area.
On January 30, gunmen attacked the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headquarters building in a drive-by shooting in Sulaymaniyah. According to news reports, the attackers drove by in a Toyota Land Cruiser, firing at least 20 rounds at the KDP building before fleeing. The attack caused only material damage.
On January 31, ISIS launched a mortar attack on the village of Islah, northeast of Baquba. A security source stated that three mortar shells fell near the village without causing injuries.
On January 31, Iraqi police sources said an explosion killed one person and wounded another in the Tuzkhormatu district in Salah ad-Din province.
On January 31, a security source said that Peshmerga forces affiliated with the KDP advanced seven kilometers into Kirkuk province. The source stated that the Peshmerga frontline moved up to the villages of Sarbsakh and Darband within the Sargaran subdistrict, advancing closer to oil-rich territory disputed between Kurdish and Iraqi authorities. A second security source said that hours later Iraqi Army forces reinforced positions along the Kirkuk-Erbil road, as high level contacts between Baghdad and the KRG sought to de-escalate the situation. On February 3, the Ministry of Peshmerga denied that its forces had advanced into disputed territories, stating that Peshmerga units had been placed on high alert due to increased ISIS movements in the Qara Chogh and Makhmour areas.
On January 31, an IED targeted a convoy transporting supplies for the International Coalition on al-Hawali road in Babylon province, damaging one of the convoy’s vehicles. A second IED exploded on another Coalition supply convoy in the al-Luhais area of Dhi-Qar province, without reports of damages or casualties. On February 4, an IED struck a third supply convoy for the Coalition on the Babylon highway, with no casualties or damage.
On February 1, an unidentified attacker tossed a grenade at the Shaab Municipality building in northeastern Baghdad. A security source stated that the attack caused no casualties.
On February 1, security sources announced the launch of Operation Lions of al-Jazeera, a joint security operation involving the Iraqi Army and Police and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) aimed at targeting ISIS remnants in Salah ad-Din and Ninewa provinces. The operation involved the Iraqi Army’s 91st Brigade, five PMF brigades, Salah ad-Din SWAT and emergency police regiments, as well as units from the Army’s 20th Division, and tribal mobilization units. Security sources stated that the ongoing operation resulted in destruction of two ISIS camps, four IEDs, and a supply-line tunnel.
On February 1, a land mine exploded in western Haditha in Anbar province, killing one child and wounding another. Haditha mayor Mabrouk al-Jugheifi, stated that unexploded ordnance left behind by ISIS remains a security threat for civilians throughout Anbar province. On February 4, the first regiment of the Iman Ali militia announced an operation to clear IEDs and leftover explosives north of Fallujah in Anbar province. A PMF source said that the militia detonated 25 IEDs leftover by ISIS.
On February 2, a gunmen attacked a school used by the Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) as a registration center in Kirkuk, injuring one police officer. A security source said that police officers later killed the gunman after a standoff.
On February 2, five PMF fighters died in an ISIS ambush during reconnaissance patrols in Naft Khanna, northeast of Baquba. On February 3, a PMF source announced a security operation involving seven PMF brigades to clear the Naft Khanna area and track down the ISIS perpetrators.
On February 2, gunmen killed a civilian outside of his store in al-Katoun, west of Baquba. The following day, gunmen attacked two brothers in Abu Saida, northeast of Baquba, killing one and wounding the other.
On February 2, Turkish warplanes bombed targets in the Bashdar district of northern Sulaymaniyah province. According to KRG police officials, the airstrikes injured one civilian and damaged several homes.
On February 2, Defense Minister Juma Inad announced the appointment of Major General Hamad Namis Yassin as Commander of al-Jazeera Operations, to replace Major General Ahmed Salim who became Commander of Baghdad Operations in January.
On February 2, an ISIS sniper wounded two PMF fighters in the Dhira’ Dijla area, east of Fallujah. PMF sources said the casualties were from the PMF 27th Brigade.
On February 2, ISIS militants attacked Iraqi Army soldiers in the village of Zanjili in eastern Salah ad-Din. The attack killed one army commando and wounded two others.
On February 2, International Coalition airstrikes killed Abu Hassan al-Gharibawi, the ISIS governor of southern Iraq, in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. Security sources stated that the strikes also killed three other ISIS militants and destroyed four suicide vests.
On February 3, two IEDs targeted PMF units in Diyala province. The first IED struck a PMF medical vehicle in the Ein al-Samak area, east of Baquba, without causing casualties. A second IED exploded amidst fighters from the PMF 1st Brigade during a security operation in Naft Khanna, injuring two militiamen.
On February 4, PMF forces announced the killing of two ISIS leaders after a clash on Karma Island in Anbar province. A PMF source said that one of the dead militants was the ISIS governor of North Baghdad.
On February 4, ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi Army outpost in Zour al-Ghasalah, near Jalawla, northeast of Baquba. The attack killed one soldier and wounded two others.
On January 31, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use Iraq’s embassies to urge pharmaceutical companies and countries manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines to expedite their shipments of the vaccine to Iraq. On February 1, the Ministry of Health announced that the first batches of the vaccines would arrive in Iraq by the end of the month. A spokesman for Iraqi Cabinet, Haider Majeed, added that the Cabinet has allocated $100 million to purchase vaccines from World Health Organization approved companies.
On February 1, Iraqi security forces began closing the Jedaa 5 camp for internally displaced peoples (IDPs) in Ninewa province. Iraqi authorities entered the camp, which holds almost 7,000 people, and told residents from three specific Ninewa towns to leave voluntarily or face forcible eviction. Human rights and aid groups have warned that the government’s rush to close IDP camps jeopardizes the wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable people, as the IDPs are often forced out with no procedures in place to support them upon returning to home districts lacking basic services, security, and economic opportunity. Ministry of Migration and Displacement spokesman Hassan al-Allaf defended the government’s process, stating that “there is no forced return, only voluntary return.” On January 15, Iraq’s Migration Minister announced the closure of the Salamiyya IDP camp in Ninewa, defending the process as one of “voluntary” return. Ninewa’s Deputy Governor Hassan al-Allah, however, argued that the government’s handling of IDP returns and reintegration could be disastrous in the future.
On February 2, Iraq’s Minister of Migration and Displacement Ivan Faek Jabro met with the Jordanian Minister of Interior, Samir Ibrahim al-Mubaidin to discuss the status of Iraqi asylum seekers in Jordan. Minister Jabro submitted requests to the Jordanian Interior Ministry to ease the conditions for Iraqis seeking work permits in Jordan, as well as Iraqi students studying in Jordan to enroll without first obtaining residency in the country.
On February 4, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 624,222. This is an increase of 7,020 from last week’s number of 617,202 reported on January 28. Of these cases,14,172 are currently in Iraqi hospitals, including 192 currently being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). These numbers represent a decrease of 1,746 hospitalizations and an increase of 22 people currently in the ICU since January 28. Ministry data indicated that there were 67 new COVID-19 deaths since January 28, bringing the total from 13,024 to 13,091. The total number of recoveries increased from 588,260 to 596,959. The average number of new cases increased to 1,150 per day, compared to an average of 943 per day during the seven day period ending January 28. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 427 cases, Karbala and Basra with 106 cases each, Najaf with 89 cases, and Kirkuk with 59 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 5,803,603 samples for COVID 19.
On February 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during January totaled 88.922 million barrels, for an average of 2.868 million barrels per day (bpd), which is 22,000 bpd higher than December’s average of 2.846 bpd million bpd. The January exports generated $4.739 billion in revenue, more than $500 million higher than December’s $4.213 billion. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of $53.294, almost $6 up from December’s average of $47.765 per barrel. Shipped exports from fields in southern and central Iraq averaged 2.77 million bpd in January, while average exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan were 113,560 bpd.
On February 1, a Bloomberg report suggested that Iraq has failed to comply with the production quota set for the country under the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) supply cut deal. The report, citing shipping data, argued that Iraq pumped a total of 3.87 million bpd in January, surpassing the 3.6 million bpd ceiling Baghdad had agreed to. According to Bloomberg It is more difficult to maintain these quotas when revenue from crude oil sales are so vital to Iraq’s economy. Iraq’s oil marketer (SOMO) rejected the claims in the report, arguing that Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, produced a total of 3.807 million bpd, well under Iraq’s 3.857 million bpd quota for January-March.
On February 1, President Barham Salih met with the visiting Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Nayef Falah al-Hajraf in Baghdad. The two sides, according to remarks by Salih, highlighted the importance of developing Iraq-GCC relations through more trade and economic agreements. For his part, Hajraf reaffirmed the GCC’s “commitment to supporting Iraq’s safety, security and full sovereignty. And supporting its fight against terrorism.” Hajraf also met with Prime Minister Kadhimi, who expressed Baghdad’s desire for stronger relations with its Gulf neighbors, and called for joint action to resolve regional tenstions. Kadhimi also called for expanding commercial ties, and urged the visiting GCC official to expedite the grid connection project signed between Iraq and the GCC, which has been facing construction delays due to the pandemic.
On February 3, Japan’s ambassador to Iraq announced that Tokyo will give $50 million to fund “11 major projects” in the country. The diplomat said the aid will fund projects through the United Nations and other international organizations, without providing more details.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
Casualties Due To IEDs from January 28, 2021 - February 4, 2021The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
|01/31/21||Al-Hawali road, Babylon||0||0|
|01/31/21||Tuzkhormatu district, Salah ad-Din province||1||1|
|02/01/21||Basmayah, southeast of Baghdad||0||0|
|02/01/21||Karrada, central Baghdad||0||0|
|02/01/21||Western Haditha, Anbar province||1||1|
|02/02/21||Al-Nidhal street, Baghdad||0||0|
|02/02/21||Al-Luhais, Dhi-Qar province||0||0|
|02/03/21||Ein al-Samak, east of Baquba||0||0|
|02/03/21||Naft Khanna, Diyala province||0||2|
|02/03/21||Diyala Bridge, southeastern Baghdad||0||0|
|02/03/21||Jurf al-Naddaf, southeastern Baghdad||0||0|
Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.
Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.